It was a good decision to get our child used to a high chair. At around 8 months, we introduced one of the readily available, best high chair for babies in India. Although I still feel that it was a bit late, anyway, better late than never. Earlier this year, my parents gifted our son a lovely Graco high chair. There are times when he is cranky and isn’t too gung-ho about sitting on the chair. However, one of my major challenges was teaching kids table manners and etiquette
Kids can display poor table manners and this stems from the early days and teaching kids table manners and etiquette can be tough. Mostly, the high chair experience is to be blamed for. That very experience of getting the kid to have his meals on a booster seat or high chair can be traumatic for the child. It’s because they’re not enjoying themselves or being themselves. They might feel impatient for the meal to come or ignored by conversations they don’t understand, especially when the chair is placed at some corner of the house which isolates them from say rest of the family. Consider ways you can make mealtimes more pleasant while they’re still sitting on their high chair.
How to encourage table manners and etiquette in kids:
At the moment and if I tell you honestly, we are definitely way too far from it. It seems like a mission impossible. He gets agitated sitting on it for more than 15 minutes. The last leg of those 15 minutes is terrible. He purposely drops his spoon on the floor and joyfully dips both his hands in that delicious bowl full of vegetable gravy.
But I have realised that with a plateful of patience and the ‘let’s not give up’ attitude, we will at least be able to instil in him the basic idea of how to behave at the table. Most importantly, how to enjoy a meal with the family.
By table manners and etiquettes, it is generally meant that the child embodies good behaviour while eating a meal at a table. Therefore, our focus should always be on how to create a healthy experience and environment for the child to always associate eating with joy.
By table manners, we don’t mean, sitting up straight or holding the fork correctly. Instead, we’re talking about being able to eat with your kids whether at home or at a restaurant while they’re enjoying themselves.
Simple tips for teaching kids table manners and etiquette:
1. Set the correct time
Serve them meals at a fixed time and stick to this pattern on a daily basis. For instance, 8:00 AM breakfast, 1:00 PM lunch, 4:00 PM snack and 7:00 PM dinner. This way, they will get used to a set pattern. Children love learning patterns. Their minds and bodies respond very well to pattern techniques.
2. Goal setting
Place one thing at a time in front of them. Toddlers are known to throw a lot of tantrums when it comes to food. So, if they throw food on the floor, then it is advised that you always put one piece of food item at a time on his highchair tray, e.g. one piece of chicken or carrot. When he is finished eating it, give him another. This way, he will make less mess, learn patience and discipline.
3. Practice with them
Sit with them at a time other than the fixed mealtime and explain what you expect out of them. Pen it down for them and keep reminding them through pictorial representations. Ask them to remind you of those rules or you sing those rules along with them. If you are creative, then do a bit of story-telling and mention those rules as a ‘lesson/conclusion of the story. This can especially be practised amongst the pre-schooler group who are known to be picky/fussy/slow eaters. Practising the art of conversation and active listening. It is advised to get started on this early on. After all, who would like to hear one-word answers and gloomy, dull faces on the dinner table!
4. Include them in the conversation and listen to them actively
Involve kids in the conversation that you are having with other members of the family. Being included in the conversation can be a morale booster. You might explain what you’re discussing, or simply ask one another, including the kids, how your day has gone.
5. Discuss the food
With conversations and meals going hand in hand, talking about the food keeps children engaged. Besides, telling them the concept of farm-to-table can be one of the best topics to teach them the value of the food chain, farming community and nutrition food provides. Ask your child what the best part of the meal is. Discuss the colours, textures and aromas in the foo.